Double happiness: ice cream that's gourmet but guilt-free

By YP junior reporters, compiled by John Kang

Forget store-bought, we learned to make tasty frozen treats the old-fashioned way

By YP junior reporters, compiled by John Kang |

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(From left) Rosaline Chan, Bakhita Fung, Annette Kim and Catherine Wang with Happy Cow founder Isaac Goldstein.

Young Post's junior reporters learned how to make delicious ice cream that is dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free. They were taught by local ice cream maker Happy Cow, which was founded by vegan couple Isaac and Lacey Goldstein in 2012.

Our junior reporters went to the Happy Cow factory in Kwai Chung, and here's what they learned.

Gourmet but also guilt-free

Nearly 90 per cent of East Asians are lactose intolerant, so more and more individuals are turning vegan. With many others turning gluten-free, there's huge demand to find alternatives for popular foods. That's where Lacey and Isaac's journey started.

The couple was inspired to start vegetarian and vegan lifestyles after watching emotional videos online, and reading books such as Dr Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live. They soon realised the benefits of veganism, such as improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Eager for a more environmentally sustainable life and determined to live ethically, the couple started whisking up recipes they found online to satisfy their love for ice cream. In 2012, they founded Happy Cow to give people "a healthier alternative to ice cream, which was not only better for their bodies, but also the planet," says Lacey.

Their products are dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free, and contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. Isaac calls it a "great way for people to start thinking about what they're really putting inside their tummies."

Less than three years since it started, Happy Cow can be found in almost 50 shops around Hong Kong. There are currently 25 flavours, including the locally-inspired flavours "Red Bean Crunch" and "Yin Yang Sesame".

Bakhita Fung

Step-by-step guide to delicious

Delicious ice cream doesn't grow on trees … or does it? Isaac showed us how to make one of the most popular Happy Cow flavours: banana caramel swirl. It was surprisingly simple to create this amazing ice cream.

First, fresh bananas were blended into a thick brown mixture with some coconut sugar, which tasted much sweeter than normal sugar, and looks like a brown powder instead of sugar crystals. Then we added a little bit of concentrated banana flavouring and vegan stabiliser made from beans. Isaac said people had a preconception that ice cream contained large amount of additives. In fact, only less than a teaspoon of these additives goes into a tub of Happy Cow ice cream.

Next, the mixture was put into a whipping machine with coconut cream, a dairy alternative. After the ice cream was made, it was blended with caramel syrup, and packaged.

Packaging was as easy as pie … or ice cream. You just put the container under a machine similar to a hair dryer, which heats the plastic wrap and seals the container.

Vegan ice cream is definitely a healthy and organic alternative to normal ice cream.

Rosaline Chan

Photo: John Kang/SCMP


A healthier dessert option

There's no doubt about it: compared to your typical supermarket or gelato shop ice cream, Happy Cow is almost angelic. It's made of all-organic materials and it's soy-free, gluten-free, low glycemic, and kosher. And there's even one extra gram of fibre thanks to the coconut sugar used. With fewer calories, carbohydrates, and less sodium, it seems like an obviously healthier alternative. Holy cow, indeed.

Critics, however, may point out that the saturated fat content in a cup of Happy Cow is comparable in a cup of Haagen-Dazs. Wait - what?

"First off, the biggest difference between our ice cream and normal brands is that there's zero cholesterol," Isaac explained. "Also, there is such a thing as 'good' saturated fat, and the kind in this ice cream is the good, plant-based, coconut kind."

He has a point: saturated fat has important functions in the body. And Happy Cow provides this fat without the extra additives, fats, and emulsifiers found in commercial varieties. So can this vegan dessert alternative help people lose weight?

Isaac doesn't claim his product is a magic fat-burner. "There is no such thing as quick-fix weight loss. What we try to promote with Happy Cow are gradual lifestyle changes. The most important thing about healthy eating is having good quality food. But that's not the only thing; in the long run, you need to have a healthy work-life balance and a higher sense of purpose in life."

So that means you can't binge on several buckets in one go. In the end, it is still a dessert and not a meal substitute. "We're ice cream, just made better," Isaac smiles.

Now that's moo-sic to my ears.

Catherine Wang

Offering a world-class local option

A business like Happy Cow, which provides vegan and gluten-free alternatives to everyday food, is great for Hong Kong, where so many products are imported from other countries.

"People buy frappuccinos from Starbucks without thinking how that affects them and where they live," Lacy says. "They don't think about all the sugar they're consuming, or that they're just benefiting another country. And because so many things are imported, people don't realise that there are many local companies which provide fresh, healthy products."

Lacey and Isaac hope Hongkongers become more aware of the consequences of their consumption, which would help both the health of consumers, and the growth of local companies.

Annette Kim